Senior Abby Johnston and junior Nick McCrory made waves in London this summer as the latest Duke-affiliated athletes to medal in the Olympic Games. Johnston, who won a silver medal in synchronized 3-meter springboard diving, and McCrory, a bronze medalist in synchronized 10-meter platform diving, describe medaling as the culmination of their athletic careers: the result of early mornings, physical therapy sessions and a diving schedule of more than 25 hours per week. Johnston and McCrory helped earn the United States its first Olympic diving medals in 12 years. The moment that Johnston realized she and her partner, Kelci Bryant, had won silver remains a blur.
“I just ran over to Kelci my partner, hugged her and started yelling, ‘We did it! We did it!’” she said, noting that the victory did not fully sink in until she was standing on the podium. “The dream had become a reality.”
Disbelief, relief and a sheer sense of “wow” were the three emotions running through McCrory’s mind when he and his partner, David Boudia, realized he had won the bronze medal.
“It was such an amazing moment,” McCrory said. “It took days to set in... that I had actually did it. Four years in between and anything can happen.” Both Johnston and McCrory are grateful for the opportunities this summer’s Olympics presented. Johnston cites the opening ceremonies as one of her favorite moments outside the competition.
“You start in the village and as a country walk together to the stadium,” she said. “To be surrounded by all of these elite athletes that you’re used to seeing on TV—it was very cool. When we were walking, we started spontaneously cheering ‘USA! USA!’ It gave me chills.”
McCrory said he went into the Olympics simply trying to do his best. “I would say being at the Olympics, it’s the definitive [moment] of your career, but it doesn’t change who you are,” he said. “I tried to do my best and have a good performance—medaling was kind of an afterthought.”
Olympic dreams caused the athletes to put their Duke careers aside, though they trained on campus. Johnston did not take classes at Duke this Spring and took a reduced courseload Fall 2011. McCrory took off all of the 2011-2012 academic year.
But now that the games are over, Johnston and McCrory are focusing on classes. Both Johnston and McCrory are pre-med, majoring in psychology and mathematics, respectively.
“It’s been a bit challenging,” Johnston said of the adjustment back to school life. “I am just happy to be back on campus.”
McCrory is similarly transitioning back into the dual role of student-athlete. “Right now, I’m really focused on school,” he said. “My first two years here, everything was very diving-oriented. Now, I feel like for the first time, I have a chance to give school all of my attention and strike a balance that’s a little bit more shifted toward my schoolwork. That being said, I’m still going to try to have a great season for Duke.”
Once the first semester winds down, Johnston and McCrory will return to Duke swimming and diving. Johnston’s goal is to win another NCAA championship. McCrory is on a break from training, but he said he resumes training in about a month. The junior has two more years of NCAA eligibility and says “he is looking forward to it.”
Are another Olympic Games in this duo’s future? It is not out of the realm of possibility, they both said.
“I want to go to medical school and that would put my life on hold for another year, so we’ll see,” Johnston said.
McCrory faces a similar choice.
“The next Olympics is four years way, which is a long time, but at the same time, the decision will make a difference in how I train now,” he said.